Saturday, February 27, 2016
Chuck Stapel, R.I.P.
I note the passing of legendary knifemaker and my good friend Chuck Stapel after a long illness. Chuck was the "knifemaker for Hollywood;" you saw his blades in "Quigley Down Under," "Django Unchained,"and dozens of television shows and commercials.
The thing I loved about Chuck was at some point in his spectacular career, he made the decision that he would only make the kind of knifes he wanted to make, as opposed to the ones he could sell by the truckload. It was an honorable decision, a man's decision.
Over the years Chuck and I talked about building a very special knife for me. There were lots of sketches exchanged, but nothing clicked. Then one day over dinner we came up with a novel idea, based on a cut-down dagger I saw in a European museum. I would write a "history" of a family heirloom knife, and Chuck would build that knife. No secret my people were Scots, Highlanders, and they got a free ride to the New World as indentured slaves. So I sketched out an outline about a Scottish dirk, banned, but smuggled to the New World. Over the decades, as the McBane, soon to be Bane, clan moved west with the Cherokee, the long dirk, almost a short sword, was shortened and the blade reconfigured to a more useful shape for a frontiersman — with the clan makings carefully preserved. A rough guard was added at one point, hilt changed with pieces of ivory, walnut, stones picked up along the way and rebuilt repeatedly over the years….etc. We'd commission a deerhide sheath beaded and fringed in the Cherokee style.
Chuck and I had a great time playing with this…it was exactly the sort of thing Chuck loved, kind of like the movies, a history that wasn't really reality.
Of course that knife never got built. I bought a Cold Steel Scottish Dirk, which we agreed would be a great base for the project, but you know how it goes. Chuck and I talked about it last year when I was out in Hollywood for GUN STORIES. He was busy with a bunch of exotic knives for a television series, I was up to my neck in GUN STORIES. We'd definitely get to the dirk next year.
Valhalla always has use for a master bladesmith. I'm sure if I listen very closely tonight, I can hear the steady rhythm of a hammer on steel.
Go with God, brother.